Archive for 18 September 2008
StarWars: The Force Unleashed
As a fanboy to the extreme, I am always excited to see any new Star Wars product hit the market. Unfortunately, many times my excitement is short-lived due to the fact that Star Wars games rarely hit the mark. True, there are those that will live in my library for years to come, but most slip quietly out of circulation.In case you are from a galaxy far far away, and are unaware of the plot, The Force Unleashed takes place between Episodes III and IV. The story is centered on a young Jedi named Starkiller, who is being reared by Darth Vader as a secret apprentice, but I won’t go into detail lest I ruin the experience. Suffice to say that the storyline is clearly well constructed and any fan of the Star Wars universe will appreciate the nuances present. From the scrolling introduction (sadly missing from the Clone Wars movie currently in theaters) to the grand cinematic soundtrack, the presentation is great.The Force Unleashed is a very straightforward game with a simple pick-up-and-play configuration that tutors you along the way. When you begin, you have a meager understanding of the force, but are tuned into its dark side. It is quite clear that this side of the force is all about power with little concern for respecting your environments. You can smash and bash just about anything imaginable and it is pure fun. The game is engaging at first, but quickly becomes repetitive. You can hack and slash your way through most sequences, or you can try to be a bit more creative with your power and find more interesting ways to dispense with your enemies. As you fight through the story, you earn points that allow you to level up. This rudimentary RPG system does allow for a bit of welcome distraction from all the hack-and-slash, but it does not really seem necessary. As you level up, there are three categories in which you can improve: force powers, combos and talents. Powers include force push, lighting and force grip. Combos are self-explanatory, albeit pretty annoying to keep track of in the button smashing sequences. Talents are areas that allow you in increase your health/force meters or increase the speed an which they refill. Nothing earth shattering, but it does add a little depth to the whole experience.When the Force Unleashed was announced, it was the physics and destructible environments that had gamers champing at the bit to play it . The good news is this is, by far, the most realistic Star Wars game I have played in terms of the overall feel of the environments. Even with the full capacity of the force, heavy objects aren’t easy to manipulate and there is a definite sense of momentum. With the exception of the boss fights at the end of the levels, most enemies seem to have a logical tolerance for damage. Drop a boulder on a Storm Trooper and he will die. Force Push the same character and he will sustain some damage, but probably not die. Of course, if you need to, you can just pick up a character and hurl him into oblivion.The level design is clearly identifiable with the Star Wars universe. You will visit locations and characters that are both familiar and wonderfully-rendered.